On the surface, the latest genre flick from writer-producer Joss Whedon (a busy man this month, what with this and superhero blockbuster The Avengers almost upon us) and writer-director Drew Goddard (Cloverfield) sounds like your common or garden horror set in some remote American woodlands – a blatant Evil Dead rip-off. Five students head off to a remote holiday cabin for a break, not realising the supernatural horrors that await them… yawn.
But The Cabin in the Woods is so much more. Without wanting to demean it, it is clearly the new Scream.
If you recall, in the mid-1990s the whole slasher movie genre typified by endless sequels to Nightmare on Elm Street and Friday the 13th had not only played itself out, it had dug its own grave and carved the headstone. Then suddenly Scream arrived: a post-modern horror that mocked the films it seemingly imitated while reinventing and rejuvenating the genre for a new generation. Director Wes Craven happily subverted the very films he had founded his career on.
Cabin pulls very much the same trick, but on a much grander scale. It’s a deconstruction, satire and celebration of just about every horror cliché in the book. Just like Scream, it’s funny, it’s scary, it’s quite bloody, and it completely messes with your expectations. It’s a real treat, especially if you know your horror films.
To say any more would spoil the surprises in store – this is a film where you really should avoid seeing the trailer in advance. Suffice it to say the script is sharp and the performances spot on. If I could level one complaint, it would be that there aren’t quite enough genuine scares to justify labelling it an instant horror classic – Goddard just doesn’t have the expertise that Craven did in his prime – but there’s still enough tension to keep things interesting.
Just don’t expect a sequel.